Algal Gene Thieves?

We’ve written about horizontal gene transfer in the past. In the back of my mind when I wrote that article, I was fairly certain it would not be the last article I wrote on it and it turns out I was correct.  The evolutionists are depending heavily on horizontal gene transfer, particularly with regard to shared genes in organisms that are not closely related.  A recent study has come out claiming that oceanic algae steal genes from ocean-going bacteria.  This study closely matches how evolutionists use horizontal gene transfer in general.

For those who may not remember what horizontal gene transfer is, it is a mechanism by which bacteria, and occasionally other life forms, transfer sections of their DNA from one to the other.  In bacteria, the most common organism to undergo horizontal gene transfer, the mechanism is fairly simple. Two bacteria will come alongside one another and one will extend a small tube from its side. The two bacteria will then exchange DNA in small coils called plasmids.  The bacteria will either exchange whole copies of the plasmids or small segments of it.

In this particular study, the researchers looked at a group of marine algae known as the brown and golden-brown algae. Diatoms and dinoflagellates are members of this group and are crucial to the oxygen production of life on earth, producing close to seventy percent of atmospheric oxygen.  According to this study, these algae stole genes from bacteria. The stolen genes accounted for around one percent of all the genes in this group.

There are, as always, significant caveats to this study. These researchers did not determine that these genes were borrowed empirically. Instead, they used a method called phylogenomics. Phylogenomics, as applied by these authors, is the comparison of whole, or nearly complete, genomes of organisms to apply genes that are similar across the organisms. When genes match in organisms that do not appear to be related, the evolutionists presume that they were acquired via gene transfer.

There are a lot of problems with this explanation. The first one is how the evolutionists determine which organisms are related. This must be determined before any phylogenetic methods are applied or it would be impossible to determine which genes were transferred. This relatedness is determined by phylogenetics. Phylogenetics has a lot of necessary assumptions, one of which being that evolution is true. The second and perhaps slightly more relevant assumption is that the more similar traits organisms share, the more closely related they are. This raises more issues than we have space to deal with here but in short, this assumption is false on multiple levels.  This brings us to the realization that phylogenies are not necessarily true and indeed professional evolutionists have recognized this repeatedly for decades.

Assuming that the phylogenies are accurate, which is by no means a safe assumption, phylogenomics has other issues.  It assumes that similar genes in different, unrelated organisms, must share a common history.  In other words, if a diatom has a gene that has a similar structure and function as a bacterial gene, those two genes must share a common gene ancestor. This is simply preposterous. While common genetic ancestry is one possibility, other possibilities are equally valid. If there is a God, then He is perfectly capable of designing unrelated organisms to have similar genes, particularly if those organisms need to perform similar functions or inhabit the same environments. The evolutionists are assuming facts that are not in evidence.

Horizontal gene transfer is a very interesting phenomenon. It is certainly a potential mechanism for speciation in bacterial kinds for example, as different bacterial species pass genetic material between themselves.  However, until empirical evidence of gene transfer between algae and bacteria or really empirical evidence of almost all the claimed horizontal gene transfer that is claimed, we will remain skeptical. The assumptions behind the model simply are not tenable.  If we do find horizontal gene transfer in diatoms, I suspect it will only ever occur among diatom species, not between diatoms and bacteria. It is our expectation that gene transfer only occurs within the created kinds, not between created kinds. This would be in line with what we know about gene flow in populations and is much more consistent with the empirical data than the evolutionist’s speculations using phylogenomics.


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Algae in the Oceans Often Steal Genes from Bacteria

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